Pretty well: the album sold just over 1.2m copies in the US – the biggest first-week sales there since Eminem’s ‘The Eminem Show’ racked up 1.3m units back in 2002. ‘Red’ is already the third biggest-selling album of the year.
Those are the facts, but now the speculation starts about the extent to which the digital distribution strategy contributed to these sales. Would Swift have sold more or less if the album had also been available to (legally) stream? Would she have made more money? How many fans turned to illegal/unlicensed sources to get the album?
The frustrating thing is that there are no firm answers, which is why gut-instinct and prejudices will fill the gap from both sides of the streaming is great/dreadful debate. Even the piracy stats, when they come, won’t tell us much, because ‘Red’ would have been hugely popular on BitTorrent whatever its legal distribution strategy.
The danger – for the shut-out services in particular – is in Swift’s success being seen by other managers and labels as a template to follow, rather than a strategy optimised for that particular artist and album.
If ever there was a time for the streaming services and label partners to publish some more data on how artists are making money from their platforms, it’s now.